County sends clarification letter to SSA Marine regarding Cherry Point terminal

Published on Tue, Jul 12, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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I was unfortunately unable to attend today's Whatcom County Council committee of the whole meeting, at which the proposed Gateway Pacific was to be discussed. I did, however, come across a letter from  county planning supervisor Tyler Schroeder to SSA Marine lawyer William Lynn responding to Lynn's letter requesting clarification from county planning and development services (PDS).
As I wrote about yesterday, Lynn sent a letter to county PDS on June 29 asking for clarification on Schroeder's letter telling SSA Marine they needed a new shoreline substantial development permit. One of the issues Lynn asked for clarification on was the status of SSA Marine's rights and obligations under a 1999 settlement agreement between the county and SSA Marine on one side and, bear with me here, the Washington State departments of ecology and fish and wildlife, Washington Environmental Council, North Cascades Audobon Society, People for Puget Sound, League of Women Voters and Ocean Advocates on the other.

To attempt to make a very long story shorter, the latter groups appealed Whatcom County's approval of SSA Marine's 1997 shoreline and major development permits because those groups did not feel the scope of the environmental impact statement, completed in 1997, was broad enough. That appeal produced the 1999 settlement agreement, which requires SSA Marine to study how the terminal will affect things such as the Cherry Point herring populations. As I understand it, SSA Marine has to satisfy the terms of the 1999 settlement agreement in addition to completing a new enviornmental impact statement, since substantial changes have been made to the terminal proposal since 1997, including the addition of coal as commodity the terminal will handle.

Schroeder said in his reply to Lynn that (1): the county will not reconsider their decision to require a new shoreline substantial development permit from SSA Marine, (2): the deadline for an appeal of the county's decision is Wednesday, July 13, and (3): the county and SSA Marine will have to wait and see how the new shoreline permit, when SSA Marine applies for it, will interact with the conditions in the 1999 settlement agreement.

Allow me to quote a piece of Schroeder's letter to pass on as accurately as possible what he said:

"[The settlement agreement's] requirements and benefits will be carried forth into the new shoreline process and will give flavor and substance to how the new process will be conducted. How the increased proposal affects these documents will have to be played out in the public process. However those documents continue to have merit and are considered binding by the county. But not so binding that they cannot be influenced by a new proposal. At this point, without the public process and review of [SSA Marine's] new proposal we cannot say how this will influence the conditions contained in those documents."

It's a tad unclear, I know, and I have a call out to Schroeder to see if he can clarify some of it for me.
Schroeder got back to me literally five minutes after I posted this. Here is his response, sent via email:

"The 1999 settlement agreement is a binding document between all parties.  During the public process and review of the new proposal the details and conditions of this settlement agreement will be carried forward and used as appropriate. At this time, it is hard to tell the scope of influence that the settlement agreement document will have on the new proposal."

Click here to see Schroeder's most recent letter. 

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